So Who Is Responsible For His Bad Behaviour?

by Annie Kaszina on November 10, 2005

The last couple of weeks chez Kaszina have been
overshadowed by the figure of The Driving Instructor; in point of fact the
short, stout figure of ‘Kev’, as of today my daughter’s ex-driving instructor. Kev presents as a twinkly, jokey sort of bloke, short on words
but long on salt of the earth good humour. 

Unfortunately the good guy veneer is pretty thin. Underneath it lies Essex Neanderthal Man, a
macho type who really doesn’t like women – and he had us fooled for a little


Rather than a rant about driving instructors, this is
actually about a learning curve. Suffice it to say that we chose him because he was recommended by
someone we value, and I’d done the conventional thing and booked 10 lessons for
the price of 12.

After the first few lessons twinkly Kev was replaced by
snarly, constantly critical Kev who spent lessons predicting that my daughter
would hit people, cars, walls and squirrels. Suddenly Kev’s message had become relentlessly negative. For his own
reasons he was actually programming her for failure. 

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Kev was behaving in
an abusive way – and that is as much as Kev needs to darken this ezine. More interesting is my daughter’s response
to the situation.

My daughter has travelled the road to recovery with me –
by which I mean her recovery as much as mine. I had an emotionally abusive husband; she had an emotionally
abusive father. Our experience was not
the same, obviously, yet abuse always follows the same game plan and erodes a
person in a particular way. She’s gained a lot of the insights I’ve learned,
rebuilt her self-esteem and, happily, moved on.

Still recovery is a road that goes on and on. With time, it becomes a gentle downhill
slope rather than a steep uphill climb. I don’t know if it ever completely ends, but it does become an
enjoyable, scenic route. 

Old scars fade with time, but they don’t entirely break
down. For my daughter, the decision to get rid of the driving instructor was a
difficult one; far more difficult than logic would have suggested. (Sure, I could have taken the decision out
of her hands, but it would have meant depriving her of all that she could hope
to learn by working through the experience with my support.)

Three considerations held her back. 

First, as a result of the first few, pleasant lessons,
she felt a sense of loyalty, and obligation, towards him – even though she
could see that that was absurd. That
curious sense of one-sided loyalty is characteristic of abused women.

Second, she was frightened that she
wouldn’t find someone as good again. He’d started telling her, somewhere along the line, how good an
instructor he was, and she’d believed him. She knows nearly as much as I do about the scarcity mentality that
abusers are skilled at creating, but the old button was still there and he
pressed it.

Third, the more he criticised, the more mistakes she
made, and the more mistakes she made, the more abusive his criticisms
became. At first she didn’t reveal to
me the full extent of his negative comments. In fact, she hadn’t really admitted it to herself. She’d fallen into the old pattern of denial,
the old “It’s probably just me”, “It’s not as bad as it looks/sounds” “I should
be able to cope with this”. 

Eventually, she said to me: “I thought because I was
getting it wrong
, it gave him the right to speak to me like that.” She had fallen back into the old pattern of
accepting a causal link between her shortcomings and his behaviour, the classic
his behaviour is my fault”. 

She knows the principle that another person’s behaviour is
never your fault, because that person always has a choice in how they
behave. She knows that mouths – and
fists – are not suddenly possessed by malevolent aliens… She knows, in short, that adults have sole
responsibility for what they say and what they do. Yet she had lost sight of
it. Possibly, because, briefly, he held a position of authority in her life.

The story ends well. She made her own decision to break the cycle, found herself a better
instructor and is empowered by all that she’s learned along the way. She is also internalising the fact that
there is no shame in slipping back into old patterns. It doesn’t make you weak, or stupid. It’s just something that
happens. But it’s not inevitable, and
recovery doesn’t have to be slow or painful. 

How abusive is Kev, objectively speaking? Abusive enough. Anyone who undermines you and leaves you feeling that you
are to blame for their behaviour is always abusive enough. 

really doesn’t matter how another person might experience a Kev. Their life is not your life, and so they are
different to you. Not better, not
worse, just different. The more you can
learn to accept and honour that difference, the quicker you will eject Kev
clones, before they start to undermine you.

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